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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Microsoft Releases Free public beta Small Business Accounting Software 2007

Microsoft on Monday released a public beta of the next version of its Small Business Accounting Software, adding helpful combination with the popular online selling, payment, and credit advisory services eBay, PayPal, and Equifax. The program has undergone numerous modifications, including a name change, since its formal debut last year as Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting 2006.

In addition to the aforementioned integration with a number of online services, you can now customize the layout and labels on accounting forms and add and track the results of new data fields. Security is more flexible, and it's easier to share data with your CPA, who can make adjustments while you continue to work on your books. The program also adds new capabilities such as fixed asset management.

The most admired of the new online services will be the integration with electronic payment giant PayPal. You can activate Office Accounting's PayPal add-in, included with the software, and then organize it to work with your PayPal Business Account. When you e-mail an invoice, your customer can click on its PayPal button and then use the service to pay the bill. Standard PayPal charges apply. But all this added power comes with a price: The application, which Microsoft plans to ship by year's end, is complicated to set up.

Office Accounting 2007 has an add-in to integrate with eBay, making it easier to put items you've entered in inventory for sale on the online auction service: You enter all required data on one screen in Office Accounting (instead of clicking through multiple windows on the eBay site), then upload the data. You can also download the results of sales transactions and related fees from eBay into the software. These features will be big time-savers for eBay power sellers who list hundreds of items per month and then must manually enter auction results into their accounting package. Microsoft has not yet strong-minded what it will charge for the eBay services. During the beta period the services are free, although separate registration with Microsoft's Office Marketplace is required. Of course, regular eBay charges apply.

While it's possible to use Microsoft Office Accounting on its own, the application really shines when integrated with other Microsoft Office apps. For example, you can use Microsoft Word to modify invoice templates and add one of the new PayPal payment buttons. Financial data can be transferred to Microsoft Excel, for flexible calculations. Many of the program's accounting capabilities can also be accessed using the Business Contact Manager add-in to Microsoft Outlook.
While Microsoft Office Accounting adds multi-currency support, the time-of-transaction conversion rate method used is too simple to make happy many accountants, and it is inferior to foreign-currency accounting in Sage's Simply Accounting. However, these features in Office Accounting easily beat out similar features in QuickBooks, which assumes the rest of the world's currency doesn't exist.

Microsoft Office Accounting looks slick, with an informative company dashboard that summarizes business financial performance and to-dos. In general, the software narrows but does not eliminate the lead held by its leading small-business competitors, such as Sage's Peachtree. In spite of enhancements in the latest versions of QuickBooks and Peachtree, Office Accounting still offers the best integration with Microsoft Office applications.

Richard Morochove
PC World
Tuesday, September 5, 2006;


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